Approximately 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. And unfortunately it is one of the deadliest mental disorders.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.”
The number of people dealing with eating disorders is increasing worldwide. There are many more triggers today than in the past. And the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disruption in care for these individuals. Not only has the pandemic made it difficult to get access to mental health services, but also to connect with others.
But one local hospital believes that with the right care matched to the individual, there is hope. In fact, the spirit of hope is in its name. Its mission is to work hard to change the message about food in the body.
According to Lindner Center of HOPE, for those who suffer from eating disorders, food and mealtimes become a source of fear, panic, anxiety, and pain. The reality is that you can’t tell from looking at someone if they have an eating disorder. Regardless of someone’s size or body type, a person can be dealing with this mental illness.
With eating disorders you give the patient the best chance of recovery by matching the intensity of the symptoms with the intensity of treatment; and that’s where Lindner Center of HOPE is a step above other facilities. The depth and breadth of services and skills available at one location are unmatched in the Midwest and among the best in the country. An important factor in treating eating disorders is to treat the disorder with rounded, multidisciplinary care. At Lindner Center of HOPE, patients can work with a therapist, medical doctor, or psychologist, as well as a dietician.
To learn more about one of the most prevalent and dangerous mental disorders, we spoke with Dr. Allison Mecca. Dr. Mecca is a licensed clinical psychologist at Lindner Center of HOPE. She has expertise in treating eating disorders and is a member of the Harold C. Schott Foundation Eating Disorders Program.
Dr. Mecca has a passion for working with eating disorders. In college she started working on the advocacy side, where she saw that hope could help patients struggling with eating disorders and give them the push they needed to seek treatment. After interning at Lindner Center of HOPE, she knew she wanted to return there in her career. “From the top down, the people really care about the patients and coworkers. Our team is seen for who they are, and that allows us to translate our perceived value to working with our patients.”
“Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and in shame,” explains Dr. Mecca. “Once a patient can acknowledge the eating disorder, they can begin down the road to recovery. But until they do, there is profound pain with eating disorders.”
People suffering from eating disorders have a pattern of detachment from their lives. There are changes in their personalities, and they no longer do things that they value or enjoy. Eating disorders pull people out of their daily lives, both mentally and physically.
“One of the most important things you can do if you suspect that someone is suffering from an eating disorder is to establish a connection,” says Dr. Mecca. “Express to the person that you care, that you love them, you see them. Unconditional love is one of the best things you can do for someone struggling with an eating disorder.”
Lindner Center of HOPE wants to work with individuals who are struggling with eating disorders and loved ones of patients. It also works with local hospitals and providers on new treatments, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT). These new treatments allow professionals to better target treatment options, based on a person’s personality and severity of the illness.
“We are working to educate physicians, the media, and advertisers that there is health and beauty in every size,” says Dr. Mecca.
Dr. Mecca explains that today more people are aware of the severity of eating disorders, which allows for more open dialogue. Plus, with the new treatments available, there are so many ways to help patients return to their full lives.
“Our patients work hard. They are brave and courageous to ask for help. Together we are here to help them thrive again and to help them see that they are not their eating disorder.”
For more information on eating disorders, please visit LindnerCenterOfHOPE.org.